It's one of the most important if not THE most important part of the novel - the opening. Daunting to say the least! I remember when I first created my list of potential literary agents that I wanted to query, it was stressful to read that if the query passed muster, a lot of agents wanted to look at the first chapter or two only.
It's hard not to overthink the beginning because it's the first impression, and it really matters.
That being said, here are some tips I have learned:
1. Jump right into the action and get the story going. Don't waste time on a lot of backstory - that can be added in later on.
2. One of your goals is to generate excitement with your reader and to make them connect to your story, your characters, etc. You want to create interest and sustain it as soon as possible. Keep the reader invested, give them a reason to keep turning page after page.
3. If you open with action, use short sentences and paragraphs. Keep the dialogue brief and to the point.
4. As soon as possible create the who, what, when, where, how and why of your story.
5. Introduce your main character right away. Give the reader the first possible opportunity to get to know the protagonist.
6. Hook the reader (for more about the "hook", read THIS).
7. The first line sets the tone for the rest of the novel, so decide what you want the tone to convey.
For more on this subject, here are some great articles:
How to create an opening
How to write a story opening
Write a suspensful opening
For more articles, visit my blog: http://unearththeclues.blogspot.com/